Let Go of the Past to Move into the Future
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2006 27 Jun
You can’t drive life’s road without sometimes hitting bumps like regrets, disappointments, and tragedies. When you do, it’s easy to get stuck there, gazing back into your rearview mirror at the past.
But God wants you to move on toward the future He has planned for you. It’s a future filled with hope – but to get there, you’ve got to turn your focus forward and look through the windshield at the road ahead.
Here’s how you can let go of the past to move into the future:
* Realize that you have a choice. Understand that you’re not a victim of your circumstances and that no one but yourself can tie you to the past; you can decide whether or not to move on. Ask God for the courage to choose to break free of whatever is chaining you to the past.
* Know Who travels with you. Remember that God is right beside your side all the time. Trust in His unsurpassed power, wisdom, and love when He urges you to keep going into the future. Don’t linger in any place God is calling you to leave. Be willing to put your own agenda aside to follow wherever God leads you.
* Recognize the difference between learning from the past and letting it control you. Understand that it’s healthy to look back as long as you’re learning from your past and remembering how God has worked in your life. But beware of becoming so preoccupied with your past that it begins to dictate your present and future. Don’t let your past define you; that’s God’s job.
* Seek deliverance from parts of your past you’re struggling to let go. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you mentally take those past experiences and lay them in trust at the foot of the cross for Jesus to handle. Acknowledge that holding onto the past is sin because it keeps you from obeying God’s call to move on. Repent of making the past an idol in your life. Make whatever changes you need to make in your life to reinforce your decision, such as discarding past possessions. Surround yourself with people who support your decision to move on. Seek God with all your heart and be excited about His plans for you. Read and meditate on Scripture as a new perspective gradually emerges for you.
* Avoid nostalgia. Don’t be duped into thinking that your best days are behind you. Expect God to continue to bless you in new ways. Recognize that your success is not dependent on any special time or place that can never be captured again. Know that the same God who was with you back in the past is with you now and will continue to be. Don’t rest on your laurels or become intimidated by your past successes; keep active and contributing to the world as He leads you. Trust God to bring you encore success and joy.
* Seek healing for a broken heart. Know that God understands and feels the pain of your heartbreak over a broken relationship with someone you’d loved. Understand that, no matter what happened to wrest your loved one from you, God can transform your pain into positive growth for you. Realize that everything that happens to you plays a part in God’s greater purposes for your life. Give up trying to change the past; it’s futile. Instead, ask God to help you learn to trust His sovereignty in your relationships. Don’t waste time and energy trying to numb a broken heart with drugs or alcohol, denying your feelings, starting a “rebound” relationship, or trying to distract yourself with busyness. Know that God wants to heal you. Pursue healing by repenting of any sin that was involved in your lost relationship, carrying your feelings and shattered dreams to God, saturating your soul with Scripture, and being patient as He gently guides you through the healing process. Trust God to bring something good out of your pain. Understand that God brings some people into your life briefly for a specific reason, some for a longer season, and some to stay your whole life. Ask Him to help you discern which people are which, and to recognize when it’s the right time for some people to make their exits. Remember that, while some people may leave you, God never will.
* Overcome failure. Ask God to help you move past two obstacles that stand in your way after you’ve experienced failure: the consequences of your actions; and your inner sense of condemnation, guilt, regret, and self-inflicted punishment. Take your failure to God and allow Him to restore your strength, hope and confidence. Honestly pour out all your thoughts and feelings about the failure to God. Ask Him to teach you what He wants you to learn from your failure. Accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself.
* Break free of trauma’s chains. In prayer, freely express the anger, fear, disillusionment, mistakes, and regrets that have resulted from a past trauma in your life. Ask God to direct you to Scripture passages that relate to that trauma, and to use those passages as a surgeon would a scalpel to bring about the healing you need. Don’t blame God for your trauma; realize that it was the result of living in a sinful, fallen world. Invite Jesus into your pain, realizing that He is the ultimate answer to your problem. Ask Jesus to give you new hope and restore your sense of purpose.
* Get rid of the poison of bitterness. Realize that holding onto bitterness after someone has hurt you will only continue to hurt you more by poisoning your soul. Know that there is only one antidote to that poison – forgiveness. Decide not to allow people who have wronged you to keep controlling your life and distancing you from God. Remember all that God has forgiven you for, and let your gratitude and love for Him motivate you to obey His command to forgive others. Always be willing to forgive, even when people repeatedly offend you, don’t ask for your forgiveness, refuse to reconcile, or are deceased. Understand that forgiveness doesn’t depend on what you consider fair, reasonable, or just – it’s a matter of being faithful to God. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving someone; you probably never will. Instead, decide to do so and trust God to help you. Expect God to clear bitterness out of your life as you forgive.
* Let go of unhealthy attachments. Don’t waste time and energy trying to hold onto someone or something from the past if that person or thing doesn’t have a place in your present or future. Accept reality when you can’t bring back a marriage, job, child, church, reputation, or anything else you’re trying to resurrect. Realize that it – whatever it happens to be – is truly over. Refuse to wallow in sorrow over something you can’t do anything about. Get up, return to life as normal, worship God, and ask Him to help you enjoy life again. Trust God to give you new beginnings filled with promise.
* Rely on God’s strength to get you through stormy crossings. Expect a struggle every time you try to move beyond your past and cross over into your future. Don’t let challenges take you by surprise; instead, use them as tools to grow closer to God. Don’t give up; ask God for the courage and strength you need to keep going. Ask Him to teach you whatever He’d like you to learn from your crossings. Invite God to strengthen your character and renew your mind so you can become the person He wants you to become. Ask God to show you a side of Himself you’ve never seen when you make each crossing.
* Encourage others. Realize that your experiences in life aren’t just for your own benefit – they’re also designed to help other people. Use what you’ve learned about moving on to encourage others to do the same.
* Fulfill your potential. Remember that your past doesn’t determine your future. Invite God to help you understand His purposes for your life and give you a vision for the new adventures He has in store for you. Realize that your greatest potential can only be realized in and through Jesus. Ask Him to help you fulfill His highest potential for you. Step boldly into your future!
Adapted from The Windshield is Bigger than the Rearview Mirror: Changing Your Focus from Past to Promise, copyright 2006 by Jeff Wickwire. Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,
Jeff Wickwire has served as a prison minister, youth pastor, college and career director, radio evangelist, and, for more than two decades, senior pastor, currently of Turning Point Fellowship in Fort Worth, Tex. The author of Making It Right When You Feel Wronged, he has founded three successful, growing churches.